Northrop Grumman becomes 1st commercial tenant of NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — A ribbon cutting ceremony was held in High Bay 2 of NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building in celebration of Northrop Grumman’s OmegA rocket to utilize the facility as well as Mobile Launch Platform 3 for launching the company’s new launch vehicle.
These facilities have been used since the Apollo Program as well as the Space Shuttle and the Vehicle Assembly is currently processing the Space Launch System for Artemis.
Participating in the Aug. 16, 2019, ribbon cutting events and speaking to the assembled guests were Kennedy Space Director Bob Cabana, Vice commander of the 45th Space Wing Col. Thomas Ste. Marie and Northrop Grumman’s Vice President of Strategic Programs Kent Rominger.
Cabana said many of the people expected to be working on Northrop Grumman’s OmegA rocket are some of the same that worked on the space shuttle program and that are going to be helping us with the Space Launch System and Orion programs.
“What an outstanding use of this facility,” Cabana said. “We only need one bay to support SLS and Orion, and we only need one launch pad. Wouldn’t it be great if we could utilize that pad and this facility to support our nation’s other needs in space. Helping support it with the OmegA rocket is what’s going to happen.”
Speaking on behalf of the 45th Space Wing, Col. Thomas Ste. Marie acknowledged the Air Force members that have worked alongside scientists and engineers from the inception of all of the space programs and went on to say that as those mission evolved, so too has the 45th Space Wing.
“The 45th Space Wing and our predecessor organizations decades before, each helped this historic endeavors which made the dreams and aspirations of so many Americans in the space program a reality,” Ste. Marie said. “We stood alongside these innovators to insure we provide mission assurance and we provide world class support to these mission partners all while ensuring public safety along the way.”
Ste. Marie said that just over three years ago, the 45th Space Wing started its “Drive to 48,” a goal of being able to support 48 launches a year on the Eastern Range between facilities at Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. He said Northrop Grumman and its OmegA rocket marches them even closer to that goal.
Rominger, Northrop Grumman’s vice president for Strategic Programs and a former NASA space shuttle astronaut, said it was a great day for the company to be part of America’s Spaceport.
“This historic building was used by Apollo and, one of my favorite rockets to ride, the space shuttle,” Rominger said. “But additionally as we speak, this building is being utilized to process the Artemis system — SLS and Orion. For us, it really is an honor to bring the first commercial system into the Vehicle Assembly Building.”
In addition to utilizing the VAB, Rominger said Northrop Grumman is expected to use Mobile Launch Platform 3, which was also used for the Apollo 11 mission 50 years ago before being converted to support space shuttle missions.
Both High Bay 2 and Mobile Launch Platform 3 are expected to be renovated to be ready for the maiden flight of OmegA, currently targeting 2021.
Mike Howard was born on Florida's Space Coast in 1961, growing up on the beaches near the Kennedy Space Center when rockets first started to fly into space. As a small boy, one of the first photographs he took was in July 1969 - of the Apollo 11 launch to the Moon with his father's Nikon. With over 20 years of professional photographic experience Howard has been published in various media including Florida Today, Air and Space Magazine and has worked with SpaceX and Space Florida as well as other news outlets. In 1998 his company started offering destination wedding photography services in the Cocoa Beach area and in 2005 Michael Howard Photography L.L.C. was formed.